Monday, April 29, 2013

Brandon Agility Trial

Maxie, 6 runs, 2 Q’s, 1 QQ, 1 4th Place, 19 MACH points, 6 videos

Lucky Lucy, 6 runs, 4 Q’s, 1 QQ, three Places, 11 MACH points, 5 videos

I'm behind in my posting!  Been busy fighting off the stinging caterpillars, spring roundup in my huge yard and my neighbor's, and our club's agility trial in Port Allen, which I haven't even begun to analyze except we did terrible.  Not wanting to go there has made me more willing to take care of my yard!  Even defeat has its advantages!

This trial two weeks later ended up much better, but started out with me nursing the flu my husband brought home a few days earlier – packing the RV was such a drag I almost didn't go.  But I got to thinking about all that wasted trial entry money.  I sprayed Zicam Cold Remedy in my mouth and cheeks at  3 hour intervals 24 hours before hitting the road, and by the time I made it to Brandon (a 3.5 hour drive), I was feeling better. Used it all weekend and made it through.

Thursday night it poured down rain, I got wet setting up camp, and wind rocked the RV half the night. An ominous start. A shot of Zicam before bed and first thing Friday morning I was on the line at 8 a.m.  Running an 8" and a 24" in MS and MJ, I'm almost always bound to be one of the first on the line!  Maxie’s first run was one of his fastest and best runs EVER, with 25 seconds to spare and a full 8 seconds ahead of any other 8" dog, except the very last obstacle he took the wrong end of the tunnel!!! ACK! It seemed downhill from there for Maxie, with no Q's until Sunday, which was a QQ but neither run was fast.  I left worried about his health and my handling skills, then got home and watching the videos, realized we actually ran pretty well.  A few wide turns, he walked his weaves 4 times out of 6, popped out twice, and took the wrong end of the tunnel twice.  Other than that, good runs. What's with the sudden tunnel sucking, I don't know.  Only one error per NQ, though, all of them "nearly Q's", which I still find encouraging.  His stride seems to be getting shorter, which I will address in my Port Allen post where we saw a doggie chiropractor.

Lucky, I felt, was slow and sluggish and Bonnie McDonald, the judge, even remarked to me "Some dogs do agility because they want to, others because we want them to", implying that Lucky is the latter.  I left the trial discouraged for Lucky, dreaming of finding her a more suitable venue.  She came home, and next day jumped the 5' fence and with boisterous enthusiasm chased down and killed an enormous armadillo in the woods, exhibiting all kinds of stamina and focus, and despite a fierce 10 minute battle with a wild animal, got not a scratch on her.  Her skill amazes me. Then, reviewing her videos, Lucky actually looked pretty good and even enthusiastic on some portions of her runs.  Came home with 4 Q's out of 6 runs, 1 QQ, running under course time 5 out of 6 runs, and being the only 24” dog to qualify in both XS and XJ on Friday, got two 1st places! A wonderful change from our last trial where she never Q’d once, plodded through her weaves, and exceeded course time three out of 6 runs.  How can I make the "armadillo connection" with agility?  Do they sell armidallo juice?

Maxie and Lucky's composite videos, with my commentary, are posted at the end of this story!

Ring conditions on Friday
  • Ring conditions on Friday were HORRIBLE, with huge rutts and cross hatches across the entire arena left by the tractor tines and tires.  We all ran fearing twisted ankles.  Friday night, though, the course was cleared and BARK, the hosting club, hired a private firm to come plow and level, as the horse arena staff obviously had no idea what was needed for a dog trial.  By Saturday morning the ring was in great shape, though the crate area remained rutted all weekend and we had to walk around very carefully.
  • A weird thing happened to Lucky after her 2nd run on Saturday.  Within a minute after leaving the ring her whole back became covered with what looked like white snowflakes that I couldn’t rub off.  I've never seen anything like it. Alarmed, perplexed, I had Rosey, a vet, look at it and she said sometimes when dogs get stressed they blow a bunch of dandruff! Maybe ring stress, or she got into some poison grass or something. She recommended 25 mg of benydrill per 25# of dog.  I gave it with her supper and the next day the dandruff was gone, and no reoccurrance since then.  I don’t think it was ring stress because on the way home we pulled into the La. Welcome Center for a pottie break.  Just as I was about to let the dogs out the door this huge 18 wheeler pulls up and parks right alongside me, rumbling loudly and never shut down.  Lucky went into a fit of trembling that lasted 5 minutes, definitely stressed out, but didn't blow any dandruff.

Keeping Lucky in the RV instead of in the arena all day, running her to the start line without loitering around the ring gate, is making a difference in her speed and enthusiasm. She gets nervous standing around at the gate. As opposed to Maxie, who doesn't mind the ring gate at all because it means more treats.  He wants his turn to last as long as possible.

Reviewing the videos, it's clear Maxie reads hand motions far more than shoulder pulls and where my feet are pointing.

Maxie and Lucky will both nail this sport when they consistently RUN their dog walks and weaves, and will place higher when they learn tighter turns and I learn better placed front crosses. That's pretty much all I have to concentrate on to raise our Q rates considerably.  They both handle pretty well.

The puppy, Pepper, is another matter!  We are still working on him not bolting out of the crate, pulling on his leash so hard he chokes himself, and rear crossing the other dogs every 5 seconds on our leash walks.  He is an adorable but tangled up mess.  On the positive side, he follows me everywhere and is increasingly loyal to me, not just to food.  He is developing a very good recall.  He's fast and strong and loves to jump.  My tactic, I believe, is to love on him more, not show so much favoritism.  I'm becoming more aware, I've spoiled Maxie rotten and he has spoiled me rotten.  He is a hard act for anyone to follow.  With Pepper, I'm going to have to fake it til we make it.

Definitely can't let Maxie jump off the bed in the middle of the night as he's been doing the last 4 months or so.  Chiropractor says his spine was misaligned and shoulders may be injured, (will be covered in a post about the previous Port Allen trial, still not written).

I actually had no goals coming into this trial except to survive it as best I could with a bad cold and to observe how Maxie runs.  My mind was mush, too, because I've been mulling over how to scale back my commitments in my dog club.  Too much angst, not enough reward.   I like to contribute my talents to whatever I do and enjoy team work. Without that, I grow bored.  Overhearing other agility folks talk at trials, it seems to be a common problem in many clubs for the old timers to hold the reins tight, i.e., exclude newer members' ideas. Marsha Jones, the brand new Trial Chairman at this BARK trial was a breath of fresh air, though, sharing herself, listening intently, bouncing ideas off of others, greeting everyone (especially the newbies) like a gracious hostess does, gathering opinions, encouraging input.  Nothing done by rote  . . . . . yet.  She's a newcomer on the rise with a rapidly growing club, and my what a difference her effusive attitude and slathering of "thank yous" makes.  It was a delightful trial!

My stride is getting a wee big longer
and I'm leaning forward some.
  • I'm running better now that I have shoes with cleats, my ankles and calves are stronger and my stride a few inches longer with my leg exercises, and I didn't get lost or confused on course once, (without even looking at the course maps). I still run way too slow for my liking, but the trend is definitely UP! I didn't get nervous either.
  • Lucky bounced through (not walked) her weaves twice.  YEAH!!!!!  She got 2 jumpers Q’s with seconds to spare, leaving only three to go for her Master Jumper title. I no longer despair of her getting that title, maybe this year, and that's a heap of encouragement for me to keep her in the game.
  • I have some direction to improving Maxie's performance.  First and foremost, keep him from jumping off the bed and couch and doing further injury to his shoulders.  Second, pay more attention to my arm cues.
  • There is agility life beyond club involvement.  I've been noticing club members at this and other trials who don't invest much in their club, and attend trials without necessity of "hanging out" with other club members, putting in so many volunteer hours, nor concerning themselves with whether the club thrives or grows.  Their agility training and competition doesn't seem to suffer in the least!
Upwards and onwards!
One notices a lot analyzing and comparing one's videos, things you just simply don't notice when running the course. 

For example, Maxie doesn't respond to shoulder pulls and foot placement nearly as much as hand motions. His stride appears to be getting shorter, which appears to be due to less propulsion with his back legs, explaining his slower YPS averages.
Maxie's composite video - with commentary.

Lucky walks through tunnels instead of running.  I had not made sufficient note of that before.  Her stride over jumps is inconsistent, and her jump height is inconsistent, sometimes way higher than necessary.  When walking the weaves, she does so with inconsistent footwork.  When she runs well, she runs really well.

Lucky's composite video - with commentary.

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